Stiltsville: A Novel
Stiltsville: A Novel
Amazon.com ReviewAmazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: It may be a sign of the times that many stories about marriage unfold on a stage of high emotional drama, where the sparks stop flying and start sparring, for better or worse. There may be catharsis in those kinds of stories, but there's often little joy, which is what makes this quiet and tender debut so disarmingly good. Stiltsville is a story of a marriage that begins with serendipity--that holiest of relationship grails--one warm summer day in Miami. It's 1969 when girl (Frances, the novel's clear-eyed, guileless narrator) meets boy (Dennis, who in Frances's estimation is careless but lucky) at one of a copse of houses built on stilts in Miami's Biscayne Bay. That such a place existed is incredible now, and in the scenes that reconstruct its peculiar beauty, Susanna Daniel ushers you into an exotic and unpredictable corner of the country. It's a perfect place to fall in love, and Frances and Dennis do, without fanfare or pretense. Theirs is a love that almost instantly becomes constant and real, full of simple happiness that makes it possible to weather the storms that come. --Anne BartholomewCurtis Sittenfeld Interviews Susanna DanielCurtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep, The Man of My Dreams, and American Wife, and Susanna Daniel, author of the debut novel Stiltsville, met at the Iowa Writers Workshop. Here they talk about friendship and its role in-and beyond-novels.Curtis Sittenfeld: One of the many things I love about Stiltsville is that it starts with the main character, Frances, making a new friend, Marse, and then pretty much immediately falling for the guy Marse likes. Yet these two women become very close, even though only one of them can get the guy. Were you consciously defying stereotypes about female friendship, or did this just feel like the organic way to depict these characters?Susanna Daniel: There's a lot of bad press out there regarding female friendships, which are so much more nuanced than stereotypes would have us believe. When Frances meets Dennis, her friendship with Marse is just beginning, but already they both know there's potential. Neither woman wants to throw that away. There's a moment when Frances tells Marse that it's not like her to flirt with -- not to mention steal -- another woman's guy, and their future pretty much hinges on Marse believing her. Which she does. To grant your friend permission to pursue what might turn out to be the love of her life -- that's a sign of trust and humility, which Marse is strong enough to give.CS: So much of Stiltsville is about Frances' marriage to Dennis. I'm wondering how you think getting married and having children -- or not getting married and not having children when the people around you are -- changes the nature of women's friendships.SD: I think there's a lot of truth to the idiom that it takes a village -- not only to raise a child, but to support a marriage. Because their lives take such different paths, Frances and Marse must make exceptions for each other that they might not make for other friends. Their differences might have divided them, but instead, Marse becomes a member of Frances' family in a way that a married friend could never be. Late in the book, Frances says that Marse had been almost like a second wife to Dennis in some ways, over the years. But she loves and trusts Marse like a sister, and when Marse's life changes unexpectedly, Frances must look outside her own troubles to support her friend the way she's been supported for so long.CS: Two of Frances' best friends are her daughter, Margo, and her sister-in-law, Bette. What are the particular pleasures and complications of friendships with family members?SD: Bette, Dennis's sister, is one of the most complicated characters of the book. In order to forge a friendship early on, Frances must become a confidante of Bette's, which isn't an easy thing to do. Unlike Marse, who remains in Frances' daily li
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